September 26, 2019
Second Lap Around the Track
As people who have read my blog for some or all of the last 15 years know, the theme of the blog, which is called OnlyOnce, is that “You’re only a first time CEO once” inspired by my friend, long-time board member and mentor Fred Wilson. I always give the advice to people in business or in life that “the second lap around the track is a lot easier,” whether it’s referring to the second year of a new job, the second new job out of college, or even a second marriage. And now I’m giving myself that same advice as I become a Second-Time CEO today.
And that’s because for every lesson you learn the hard way when You’re Only a First-Time CEO Once, there is a much easier path forward when you’re doing it for the second time.
Today I am excited to announce that I am joining LRN as its second CEO since its founding 25 years ago, partnering with founder Dov Seidman as he continues to actively lead and contribute in his role of chairman. If you’ve never heard of LRN, you can certainly look at its web site, or you can read Dov’s seminal book, How, which offers a philosophical framework for individual and organizational behavior in what Dov calls a reshaped world. It also provides insight into the company’s history, worldview and philosophical underpinnings. Everything at LRN is animated and guided by the HOW philosophy – how it leads, how it governs, how it operates, and the HOW philosophy infuses all the solutions and content it provides to its partner clients. Crazy enough, I blogged about How when it first came out, 11 years ago, before I ever met Dov!
LRN is a gem of a company. It almost transcends “company” in that it feels a bit like a public good. The company is in the business of “inspiring principled performance,” which is to say, helping companies out-behave their competition. LRN’s online learning platform reaches tens of millions of people each year across the globe at companies – you can see some of LRN’s impressive client partner list here, and helps them be compliant with laws and regulations, ethical in their decision-making, and positive and respectful in their leadership, management, and communication. Late last year, LRN also cemented a strategic partnership with, and investment from Leeds Equity Partners, who I am thrilled to now be partners with in this journey as well.
For those of you who have known me over the years, you know that all of these things were front and center in the way we built Return Path. As I often said, Return Path had two missions, one about email marketing, and another about being a positive values-based culture that inspired its people to do their best work every day. In LRN, I have found a company whose actual business is that mission, so the impact and scale the company has in that regard extends to tens of millions of people working in hundreds of companies. I can’t think of a more exciting or appropriate place for me to join, and I can’t think of a better partner to have and to learn from in that journey than Dov.
One of the things that I really admire about LRN is it is both prescient and ahead of its time and yet so primed and ready for today’s business landscape and the future of work. As Dov recently described in his blog on LRN’s 25 year anniversary, LRN has been in the business of responsibility, accountability and ethical business long before Enron or the financial crisis. It has been talking about building more human companies long before public concerns about the looming disruption of AI. It was talking about restoring trust and ensuring shared truths long before social media outrage became an industry. It has advocated for CEO and board commitments to purpose long before the recent Business Roundtable statement. It has highlighted the need for Moral Leadership before it became daily front page news. It has devised strategies to measure what was previously thought of as soft – values-based behaviors and their impacts on business – long before calls for overhauling traditional performance measures. Here is a great infographic that the company produced recently to mark its 25th anniversary that speaks to the impact it’s had on the world. My job is to amplify that impact going forward.
The opportunity before us is tremendous, and I know LRN will have even greater and more meaningful impact as we live up to our mission and purpose of helping people around the world do the right thing by inspiring principled performance in business.
I look forward to engaging with LRN’s incredible community of partners, driving our outreach to thousands of new companies, working with LRN’s amazing colleagues and enlisting many new colleagues to join LRN, and creating new tools, products and services to support companies around the world meet their requirements and live up to their ethical commitments. That is a huge task. But LRN has the capabilities and assets across the board – its unique, cloud-based SaaS technology solutions, it’s award winning content and its proven track record of real impact on conduct from the shop floor to the boardroom – to get the job done.
The second lap starts today. It is of unknown length. But it is a special journey that I can’t wait to begin.
(I will continue to post on OnlyOnce, and I will not change its name. Because, hey, you’re only a Second-Time CEO Once, too. I will continue to write about leadership and entrepreneurship, and other new topics that are relevant to my new mission at LRN as well as my former journey at Return Path.)